A new fiddy?

Yeah, good luck with that. Ever since the Browning .50cal machine gun entered service in 1921, the Army has been looking for a replacement for it. And yet, it’s getting more use than ever in our current wars.

Still, the Army keeps trying.

It’s an iconic weapon whose guttural “thump-thump-thump” inspires confidence that whatever it’s shooting at is going down – in a big way.

But for the first time since World War II, the Army is working on a fundamental redesign of the venerable M2 .50cal machine gun, cutting its weight in half, increasing its accuracy and making it a lot easier to shoot for Soldiers on the move.

Dubbed the XM806, the new version of the “Ma Duce” is being developed in response to the Army’s concerns about the weight and mobility of the current M2. With a greater emphasis on light infantry tactics since 9/11, officials wanted a weapon that can be as easily mounted on a Humvee as it can a hillside.

It’s NOT the first time ever. I can think of at least two attempts to produce a ground mount replacement, and several vehicle mounted weapons that have come and gone.

So here’s this weapon, this XM806, that weighs about 60 pounds, about half of the M2’s weight. What they don’t mention is that the rate of fire is about half an M2’s also. And the M2 already has a rather slow rate of fire for antipersonnel use.

And even at 60 pounds, who is going to want to hump this thing up and down hillsides? It’s still too heavy to be manpacked for any appreciable distance. And any vehicle that’s big enough to carry it, is big enough to carry Ma Duece. So what’s the point?

16 thoughts on “A new fiddy?”

  1. Ma Deuce weighs a lot for a reason. Lighten it and you need to reduce the cyclic rate to minimize the stresses on the piece. The Barrett rifle is going to be about the only man packable 50 for quite awhile, and that thing ain’t fun to carry.

    I don’t see a point to the XM 806 either.

  2. There are a group of people in the Army that can’t stand to leave well enough alone and they will find things that work well or at least reasonably well and screw with them till they screw it up and then we have to go back to the beginning and start again.

    Tell me again why we have ACUs when DCUs and BDUs were just fine? Tell me why we have berets when patrol caps were OK with just about everyone? I tell you why it’s those jackasses (usually with stars on their shoulders) who can’t leave well enough alone.

    1. Well, successfully leading a company, battalion, brigade or division is hard, so you gotta come up with some OTHER bullet points on your OER to get ahead.

  3. Set the way back machine to the 80’s and you get the ‘Dover Devil’. With the same receiver you could have a .50 cal and a 20mm after barrel and bolt swap. Was to have fixed head space and timing like the M85 (for us old M60A1/A3 tankers)

  4. Don’t know crap about weaponry but figure this is a great place to learn something… and learn from gents who know what they are talking about.

    Thanks for the edumication.

  5. If it has fixed headspace and timing, I can think of a whole lot of reasons to change to this weapon. Yeah, you can say that headspace and timing is easy to set (and it is) but I have seen/read about a whole lot of blown barrels and near-misses on casualties because for some reason we collectively keep screwing it up. I love an M2 myself (n0t that other M2 **Brad**), but am perfectly willing to see it replaced. That rate of fire is a whole different issue, though I am sure you are still limited by 100 round boxes anyway.

    1. I’ve read that there’s a fix in the works that’s going to provide a quick change barrel that will address the headspace issue. Timing is a bit more problematical.

      But the cyclic rate of fire is important when using a machine gun in the antipersonnel role. It is arguable more important than the sustained rate of fire. And as QM notes above, you can’t ramp up the rate without ramping up the weight.

  6. Apparently it has a cyclic rate of 265 rpm. If i recall correctly, M2 is about 450. I am okay with that, as long as it is accurate. While there is much to be said for the suppressive effect of a sheer number of rounds, that also starts bringing up the issue of SDZ. In the COIN arena, where exactly did the hundreds of rounds that didn’t hit the intended target go? I am happy with getting the least number of well-aimed rounds on target necessary to get the job done. Having watched one of my scouts put 5 rounds into a car and 95 into Sadr City, I get concerned about that…

    1. I think for the M2, CROWS is going to solve a lot of that problem. I just don’t really see what niche this weapon will fill that an M2 won’t.

  7. CROWS is cool in concept, but I know that on both my recent deployments, CROWS were not used. The units did not like them, they were complicated to maintain, and tended to sit in the motorpool. Generally the loss of SA and inability to interact with the local populace from bringing the gunner down into the truck was not worth the increased survivability (which was problematic anyway since you had to come up to reload anyway). But I agree it could offset some of my above concern.

    1. I’m more than a little surprised that the Army’s risk management mentality was set aside long enough to even consider the loss of SA and interaction with the locals. I can certainly imagine the reliability concerns especially in a dusty environment.

  8. I’m waiting for Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” Mobile Infantry powered suits. The we can sling a Ma Deuce and not even think about it.

    Some Boffins are working on such things. But, they are good way from being even close to being suitable for operations. Guess I’ll just have to settle for that FN MAG.

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